Player delighted with seniors support

The 12th Gary Player Invitational at Zimbali will feature one of the strongest Champions Tour line-ups in recent years.

The 12th Gary Player Invitational presented by Coca-Cola will feature one of the strongest Champions Tour line-ups in recent years, with two multiple Major winners and two European Ryder Cup captains in the field at the Zimbali Coastal Resort in KwaZulu-Natal from 11-13 November 2011.

Gary Player, the tournament host and winner of nine Majors and nine Senior Majors, heads a field featuring 1991 Masters champion Ian Woosnam, who is one of two European Ryder Cup captains in the field. The other is England’s Mark James.

Sally Little, twice a Major winner on the LPGA Tour, joins the field alongside former French Open champion Vincent Tshabalala, former South African PGA Champion Roger Wessels and European Senior Tour winners DJ Russell of England and Zimbabwe’s Tony Johnstone.

“I am delighted with this kind of support from the Champions Tour players, and our other senior players in the field,” Player said this week.

“The senior players are such an important part of this tournament, both in anchoring the Fourball Alliance teams and partnering the regular Tour players in the Betterball Medal competition.

“To have this kind of representation in our field is a significant achievement.”

Woosnam, a 29-time winner on the European Tour and two-time winner of the European Tour Order of Merit crown, ranked number one in the world for 51 weeks.

He played in eight Ryder Cups for Europe and captained the European side to a record equaling 18½ – 9½ victory at the K Club in 2006.

Since the Welshman joined the senior circuit in 2008, he has won four times, most recently at the Berenberg Bank Masters in June.

In his rookie year, the 53-year-old won the John Jacobs trophy as the highest ranked player on the European Senior Tour, and narrowly lost the race to Sam Torrance in 2009. He ranks fourth on the current rankings after one victory and five top-10 finishes this season.

British golfer James also brings a fine CV to the Gary Player Invitational.

In a career spanning 25 years, James won 18 times on the European Tour, represented Europe in seven Ryder Cups and captained the European Ryder Cup team at Brookline in 1999. James has won three times on the Champions Tour and twice on the European Senior Tour.

DJ Russell, a two-time European Tour winner, left the Tour in 1996 and spent six years as a club professional in Derby. He re-joined the professional circuit in the senior ranks in 2005. After nine runner-up finishes, he finally broke through for his maiden senior title at the 2010 De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship.

Woosnam, James and Russell are all looking forward to a return trip to South Africa, having competed here in the Berenberg Bank Masters at the Gary Player-designed Links in January 2010.

“I am delighted to support the Gary Player Invitational and the charities it contributes to,” said Woosnam, who enjoyed previous success in South Africa when he won the 1987 Million Dollar Challenge.

“Every time we do something to relieve the plight of those less fortunate in the world, we are reminded of just how blessed we are. I am really looking forward to what promises to be an amazing tournament.”

James is also looking forward to teeing it up at Zimbali.

“It’s really an honour for me to join Gary and the other participants in this charity event,” said James.

“I’ve seen highlights of the event and read about all the money the tournament has raised for charity and I feel very privileged to contribute to such a worthy cause this year.”

The Gary Player Invitational has raised over R250-million for charities benefiting underprivileged children worldwide, but Player and the rest of the Champions Tour cast will aim to raise that mark substantially for three local charities when they join regular professionals, sport stars, celebrities and top-flight businessmen in South Africa’s premier charity sporting event from 11-13 November.